Community Responses to Disturbance

Natural or anthropogenic disturbance in forests changes the forest structure and results in shifts of species composition and traits in a community. The influence of  disturbance depends on intensity and type of disturbance as well as the time since the disturbance event. Two of our projects consider forest community (trees or lianas) along disturbance gradients, whether over time or space, including data on traits, species composition and phylogenetic structure. Understanding successional pathways in forests gives insight how species assembly works and can also help conservation projects working on forest recovery.


Typhoon impact on forest floristic composition change in the Philippines

This research considers functional traits in a tree community in a lowland mixed-dipterocarp forest in the Philippines. Much work has been done on how functional trait composition changes over time, mostly using experimental grassland communities, where growth and assembly patterns become evident within a short time span. Although there have been studies on woody plant communities, none have looked at trait shifts in response to recurrent disturbance. This study makes use of long-term census data covering a period of 12 years (1998-2010) from the 16-ha permanent forest dynamics plot in Palanan, Isabela. This area in the northern Philippines receives an average of 3 typhoons annually, making it an ideal site for studying temporal changes in plant traits in a disturbance-prone system.

People involved: Carla Monoy (MSc candidate), Sandra Yap (University of the Philippines), Ferry Slik, Kyle Tomlinson

Phylogenetic community structure of lianas along a disturbance gradient in Mengsong, Xishuangbanna, China

Lianas are notably abundant in disturbed tropical forests and influence forest dynamics. However, their identification is often problematic. DNA-barcoding allows accurate identification and the phylogenetic analysis of liana communities. The integration of phylogenetic data together with trait data can help to understand how communities assemble in different disturbance regimes and when they are shaped by environmental gradients or biotic interactions.

For the project we are inventoring the lianas in a montane forest in Xishuangbanna County, and barcoding the recorded species.

People involved: 
Mareike Roeder
, Ferry Slik


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